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Why Managing Time Isn’t the Ultimate Key to Productivity

Why Managing Time Isn’t the Ultimate Key to Productivity

What is your most precious productivity resource? What, if left unmanaged, will kill your productivity more than anything else?


Most people would answer “time”…and they’re wrong.

The most important commodity you have and must manage in order to maintain high productivity is energy, not time.

Why? Well think about it for a second.

Let’s say you managed your schedule meticulously and planned every second of every day, but when it came time to DO something in each slot you had low physical energy levels, you were anxious and stressed, and you couldn’t focus on your work and were unmotivated. How much do you think you’ll actually get done? Not very much.

Well, this is where many people sit: they think that buying a time planner and working out a rigorous schedule is the key to unlocking sky-high productivity levels. And it’s never that simple.

Instead, they should be focusing FIRST on properly managing energy levels and THEN managing their time.

This subject is much too vast to cover in one blog post, but I want to briefly look at four distinct areas of energy that you must control to achieve “superhuman” levels of productivity.

Physical Energy and Productivity

Not taking care of our bodies affects our work more than we think.

When we eat poorly, sleep too little, crash our adrenals with stimulants, rely on sugar highs to feel energy, etc., we are contributing to long-term degradation of our physical capacities.

The fact is, when you feel lethargic, tired, physically uncomfortable, etc., it has a HUGE effect on your productivity levels. It’s very distracting and hard to mentally push through.  On the flip side, when your body feels healthy, rested, energetic and refreshed, it makes can make production a breeze.

Our physical energy capacity is defined by quantity. It is measured in these terms (high to low).

Mental Energy and Productivity







Our ability to focus on what we’re doing when we’re doing it is paramount in our ability to be effective workers. 

If our minds are cloudy, distracted and “weighed down,” and we are unable to really focus in that moment, our productivity levels suffer immensely. When our attention is fixed on internal struggles and problems, it becomes very hard to stick to the task at hand. Our “noisy heads” can waste HUGE amounts of our time.

Our mental energy capacity is defined by focus. It is measured in accuracy (specific or scattered) and location (external or internal).

Emotional Energy and Productivity







Our feeling of positive or negative emotions affects how we view everything around us and thus affects our ability to produce.

If we are angry, anxious, worried, stressed, etc., we simply will not be as effective than when we are uplifted, challenged and positive in our outlook.

Our emotional energy is defined by quality. It is measured in terms of pleasant (positive) to unpleasant (negative).

Spiritual Energy and Productivity

Though this sounds kind of “new agey,” it’s actually pretty simple. The “spiritual energy” you bring to a project is your sense of purpose and motivation for completing the project.

If you could care less about the work, you obviously haven’t connected it to any strong purpose of yours and you’ll bring little internal motivation to it. This can be a huge barrier when you’re trying to push through obstacles and get things done.

Our “spiritual energy” is defined by force. It is measured in terms of strength of purpose (weak to strong).

How to Quickly and Easily Improve Productivity

Books have been written on correctly aligning these vectors, but it’s easy to get our wheels turning with just the following:

1. Work out how you can raise your physical energy levels.

What works best for me is eating plenty of healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

2. Work out how you can remove distractions in order to better focus on the tasks at hand.

I’m a Nazi about doing what I’m doing when I’m doing it. When I’m working, my email is closed, I’m not available on any instant messengers, I ignore my cell phones, I don’t have something going in the background that pulls attention like a TV or radio, and I listen to music that helps me focus (classical and movie scores, mainly).

If there are personal issues, I simply shove them aside and refuse to dwell on them. They can be addressed in their own time. Stewing over them when I’m trying to work accomplishes nothing.

The Pomodoro Technique is a good way to learn to really focus on what you’re doing.

3. Work out how you can lower your stress levels and be more positive in your work.

Regular exercise and getting enough sleep are big parts of this. Listening to music can help a lot too. Sometimes simply deciding to be in a better mood, despite reasons not to, even works. Remember…


(I actually have this hanging up in my office.)

4. Work out how can you ensure your work connects with a deeply-held purpose or desirable goal of yours.

I talk about this in more detail in my article on the value of a purpose-driven life, and think it’s an incredibly important aspect of long-term productivity and fulfillment.


What do you think of these productivity tips? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Leonty Deriglazov

    Mike, this is the best advice I’ve received in a year or so. Putting stress on maintaining energy levels rather than allocating time for duties is essential! I also like how you systematized the types of energy and the ways you think about each of those. This is indeed a very concise but immensely powerful account of productivity and well-being actually!

    Many thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I really appreciate it!

  • Cloudslicer

    Mike, sound advice, thank you. Mentioning the – rather obvious – source “The Power Of Full Engagement” (Loehr/Schwartz) would have been even sounder 😉 Or have I missed that part?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good point! Honestly I couldn’t remember where I had gotten this from as I had outlined this article quite some time ago, but yes it was from that book! I read it about 7 years ago!

  • J Tan

    Hey Mike I love the way you managed to quality the types of energy we have into something simple and easy to understand. If you ever have more thoughts on how to directly influence these energies or have your own stories, would love to hear them!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! For me it’s all about regular exercise, eating a lot of nutritious foods, and getting enough sleep.

  • Ben

    Mike, having just read a whole book about how time/focus management is the key to excelling, your philosophy of energy management makes much more sense. You’re right, having all the time in the world to focus will get you nowhere without the energy to do it. This explains why I can never get everything done no matter how much time I allocate, because I have cronically low energy levels all day every day. I follow all your tips to increase energy, do you know what else I could do? I’d really appreciate the help.


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ben, I really appreciate the comment. Yup, having time is important but what you do in that time is far more so.

      Regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep are hugely important…

      • Ben

        Exercise 5 days per week, couldn’t eat any healthier, and sleep plenty each night. What else could it be? 🙁

        • Michael Matthews

          Do you drink a lot of caffeine or other stims? Are you on meds?

  • Rob

    Excellent advice as usual Mike. Really hit a cord. You deserve all the success in the world my friend. All the Best

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Rob. I really appreciate it.

  • Ivan Stipetić

    Great advices. I love your work. I am six months in your program and feeling great. Keep up the good work.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ivan and great, keep it up!

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